A handwritten letter of thirty one pages addressed to the editor of TYI by Tebogo Mpufane, an inmate at Kutama Sinthumule Correctional Centre arrived. It reads…

Good day, Saajida,

You had mentioned Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, Elizabeth Holmes and Mark Zuckerberg [reference to The Top 100 Young Independents column]. A considerable while ago I discovered from a certain magazine publication that Georgio Armani didn’t accomplish anything worthwhile until he was in his 40s. Everything we see now, the globe-spanning business empire, the personal fortune that Forbes calculates to be north of 7 billion, the name…

“Be faithful to your ideas. Unless they are idiotic. But have courage for your ideas. Try not to have a complex about your work, or to pressure yourself to find some mythic, divine or exceptional craft. Be humble. Once the decision to do the job is made, consider the job as the director of a bank would. That is to say, with the same precise rules. Having thought this way has helped me arrive at where I am today.” – G. Armani

There are a number of lessons that could be learnt from the ‘Achievement account’ of both the youngsters you mentioned and Mr Armani, but the one I’m taking particularly at this point in my life, would be the fact that I still have my whole life ahead of me to thoroughly make amends – atone for a life poorly lived and injurious to many in the process, to endeavour towards something worthwhile and make a difference.

As a potential inspiring and aspiring leader, healer, disruptor, influencer, trailblazer, I have myself having begun, albeit in late bloom, to harken to a strong and unrelenting sense of purpose and also sense in the process that my journey has begun.

Without bombarding you with a soppy mash of intimate details about my life, allow me to offer a brief personal background. From as far back as I can remember, various concerned voices who sought to offer me aright featured prominently in my life; teachers psychologists, social workers, drug rehabilitation centre staff, pastors and family members.

In retrospect, every single one of their attempts, every effort they’ve ever made to reach out to me, and everything that some of them may be wishing they had said or done is all finding context now and is all beginning to make sense.

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This context reveals the true nature of the ‘content’ of their voices and efforts and provides it with the weight they may have wished it had to get through to me at the time and oddly rather than consume me with regret, it induces a somewhat pitiful self- laughter at the extent of my obstinance, ignorance and utter stupidity!

How and why could I have been so stupid for so long?
What could’ve made it so difficult for me to be responsive to their efforts?
Why did it have to take so long and the occurrence of such a tragic incident for context to form and for sense to prevail?

These are some of the questions that I often ask myself.

The reality is that, in addition to sympathy inducing immaturity, there is a sense in which it isn’t easy to make the right choice when you haven’t found or seen any meaningful reason to do so.

In my case, the reasons around and have always been there i.e. family, opportunity, privilege, potential, support etc.

The problem was and had always been my inability to ‘see’ these reasons, my ignorance of them, my ingratitude for them, my inability to find or attach meaning to the reasons that have always been there. My inability to realise what it means to have a mother who, although exasperating at times, loves and cares for you, to have sisters and brothers, privilege and opportunity. The context I refer to has also enabled me to find and provide for myself with answers to those questions and to find significance in and attach meaning to the reasons and to, therefore, develop the ability to almost automatically make the right choices.

What I am saying is that even though I may have earnestly wanted to make some right choices, which I frequently attempted, in the past, it was difficult primarily because I myself was unable to find or see reasons to do so. In the midst of my inner chaos, conflicts, and disorderly behaviour, the reasons were given to me by others didn’t make sense to me at the time.

On the contrary with a diluted sense of consequence and despite reluctance, it was ‘easier’ to mess around, smoke weed, and get high off other drugs and generally live my life with reckless abandon because that reflected my inner conflicts chaotic and confused state compounded by immaturity and intermittent mental and emotional instability.

It was easy to do that because, frankly speaking, I simply did not care…

[Stay tuned every Thursday as we reveal Tebogo’s story.]

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